Fresh alignments spice up Bihar's caste struggle
PATNA: If Panchayat is meant for decentralisation of power, the Bihar panchayat polls actually paved way for an unprecedeted upsurge of dalit and backward caste forces. And it cracked the power centre _ the ruling RJD. Laloo Yadav's men could managed to capture only 10 out of 37 posts of district board chairman.
Dalits and most backward castes voters had to face stiff resistance from the Yadavs in exercising their franchise. But their candidates had the last laugh with 210 seats under their belt. Samata leader Nitish Kumar's backward caste combination of Koiri and Kurmi could win 108 seats.
The elections also witnessed a significant regrouping of upper caste forces. While Bhumihars managed to win 116 seats for the district boards, Brahmins managed 68 seats. Kayasthas bagged 10 seats and Rajputs, who have been divided over the issue of approaching Laloo Yadav, won 102 seats.
The results, however, reflected a disturbing trend. Baring a few, most of the candidates who have won posts of chairman and vice chairman, are either musclemen in their own right or enjoy their patronage. Results for chairman's posts, which were announced on Sunday, were testimony to intense horse trading and use of muscle ad money power. There is no escape from criminalisation of politics in Bihar.
Madhepura has been won by a close aid of Ranjan Yadav. The post of chairman in his own home district Gopalganj has gone to his opponents. RJD district president of Muzaffarpur lost to a supporter of Ranjan.
For once, Laloo's magic did not work. Though the elections to panchayats were held on non-party basis, the RJD made it a point to field its party candidates for every post. Yadavs have won 281 seats, but at least 120 went to the opponents of RJD _ particlarly to the Ranjan camp, the Congress and the BJP. Muslim candidates managed to win 151 seats mostly for the Congress and the Samata Party. Congress cadidates could manage to win offices of chairmen of three district boards.
The RJD failed to hold ground in central Bihar where its candidates lost miserably in most of the districts. Surprisingly, the Lok Janashakti of Ram Vilas Paswan managed to grab three district boards.
But the worst sufferer in the fray was the BJP, which could bag only two district boards. According to party sources, the basic reason for such a poor show has been rampant infighting at the lower level. The party is vertically divided in two camps. Party national vice president Kailash Pati Mishra, who is also in charge of Bihar affairs, is said to be carrying out the legacy of Govindacharya who still patronises the present state leadership.
But there is also a sizable group in the party which is hostile towards the state leadership.